Another Great Deetz Classic------ Our Family Chicken Enchilada Recipe

Serve with all your favorite garnishes
We had these all the time when we were growing up. They are a recipe my mom got from a good family friend Sue Owen, who had almost as many kids as we had, so we are all friends. Sue also gave the Deetz family our standard bean taco recipe that we cherish. As we all grew up and traveled, and learned more about all the different styles of Mexican food, many of us lost track of this recipe. We have all been revisiting this one again. It's interesting because it uses very mainstream products, canned tomato paste and regular peppers, no real heat. It makes me wonder what the original recipe may have been before it started to be made in mid-century middle america when access to the real ingredients may have been seriously limited. Then again, this may have been the original recipe, unaltered. I remember in high school, we made a very basic salsa when we could even get any jalapenos. We loved it. When we were even younger, we used to get canned corn tortillas, they were fairly small, and came in cans, about 12 to a can. There was a very distinct corn lime something??? smell when the cans got opened. The brand was something standard like Las Palmas. We used to get them mailed to us in Plymouth from California when we couldn't get them there off the shelf. I have imagined this recipe made with "all the RIGHT ingredients" but for us, this is the right stuff, because it immediately evokes that food/memory thing we all love so much . . . . (Now I need to make my Mom's ground beef/onion and black olive enchiladas with red sauce!). I present the original recipe here, and will make notes at the end on variations you can play with.

just yum

Chicken Enchiladas

2 dozen corn tortillas, soft fried in a little vegetable oil, set aside

2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 Tbl. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers (red, green, yellow or orange, or a mix)
1 8-oz. can tomato paste
3 cups of half and half, heated with 2 chicken boullion cubes dissolved in it
1 lb. grated Jack Cheese

I prefer yellow or orange peppers here, but we always had them with green bell peppers

In a large skillet, saute peppers and onions until softened, stir in tomato paste, and let bubble a little. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chicken chunks.

What seems like a lot of tomato paste actually is just right once it surrounds all of the filling, it gets diluted during baking as it mixes with all the cream and cheese.
Add a small amount of cream sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish, just enough to add some moisture. Then taking the tortillas, two at a time, dip them in the cream sauce and arrange in bottom of pan, overlapping side by side.

You can visually gauge here how full to make these.
Spread chicken filling evenly across the tortillas, and add some cheese. (I don't know the exact amount of each, I just kind of wing it.) Use about 2/3 of the cheese for the interior, leaving the rest for the topping. Roll, tucking rolled edge under to the bottom of the roll. Continue until the pan is filled. You may need to squeeze them in a bit.

These could certainly be done in a larger pan, just make sure they are not too loose.
Next, pour the cream sauce over the top of the enchiladas, you may not use all of it, but they should be kind of swimming in the sauce.
You want it to be fairly wet, as the cream needs to get in to mix with the tomato based filling on the inside
Sprinkle on the remaining cheese. (You could also garnish with black olives or sliced scallions before baking if you like).
These don't need to be really cheesy, the flavor is more about the tomato and cream.
Cover with foil, and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Check on the progress, the sauce should be absorbed and the cheese melted. Time will vary by how densely you packed the pan.

As you can see, the sauce has all absorbed, leaving the cheesy top.
Serve hot, garnished with shredded lettuce, scallions, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, olives, avocados/guacamole, radish slices . . . whatever you want.

My deviations: I use 2 cups of half and half mixed with 1 cup strong broth, usually the broth created when I boil the chicken, I add lots of garlic and peppercorns to the water (don't add the peppercorns to the sauce). We also often had these garnished with black olives on the top. We always fastened these with toothpicks, but I just roll them with the seam down and it works fine. I add a little ground chipotle chili to the filling, maybe 1/4 tsp. to just give it a very subtle heat. This is the recipe exactly as I wrote it down when I was 18 and I made a hand made cookbook, including some of those Deetz classics we all made without recipes. I am certain we have all changed this a bit over time. (In talking with sister Cricket, she reminded me that we didn't mix all the veggies with the chicken before filling, I immediately remembered the feel of the onions and peppers as we filled the tortillas. They were usually pretty hot at first! So if you want to lay in the chicken/ tomatoes and the onion/ peppers separately, you can do that too.)


  1. Hey Toni.... this is one that never left my regular rotation of meals. I too was curious about the use of authentic ingredients and have subsituted the bell peppers with passila peppers. they are just a bit spicy and they have a nice bright flavor.... and I leave the components seperate like mom used to as I enjoy the distinct flavors that can easily be lost if you make a mixed 'filling' and lastly I make a stock from my chicken bones then add the half and half the extra fat in the stock adds body to the half and half .......... and one confession, we also call them entomatadas as they are made with tomato this was a contribution from Ramon who grew up eating these as well in his family. xox Cricket

  2. I WAS thinking you if anyone would be making these all these years on a regular basis. I know about the en----adas semantics, as it represents what something is. I have a great recipe with chipotles, and its called enchipotladas because its chipotles, like en-chile-adas have chiles. I also know anything mom saw that was red, she trranslated as tomato, but here the density of the tomato paste is key in how it works with the cream. thanks for the extra input, I love it! glad to hear this has another source thorugh Ramon.


Post a Comment